Two of the stars of Saturday’s win over Louisville just received some much-deserved recognition. Nick Richards was named SEC Co-Player of the Week and Tyrese Maxey SEC Freshman of the Week for their performances vs. the Cards. Richards shares the award with Arkansas guard Isaiah Joe, who had 24 points and 5 rebounds in the Razorbacks’ win at Indiana.
On Saturday, Richards had 13 points and 10 rebounds and drew a game-high 11 fouls, including two huge charges that changed the momentum of the game in the second half. His three-point play with 2:21 tied the score, beginning a stretch where he scored seven straight points. His free throws with 27 seconds left to make it 72-70 gave Kentucky the lead for good. This was Richards’ fifth double-double of the season, and his first ever against a ranked opponent. According to UK, in 20 games prior against ranked foes, Richards averaged 3.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. This is the first SEC honor of his Kentucky career.
Maxey was also named National Player of the Week by NCAA March Madness. He had a career-high 27 points vs. the Cards, the most points by a UK player in the Kentucky-Louisville series since Jodie Meeks had 28 on Jan. 4, 2009 and the most ever by a UK freshman in the series. He also had seven rebounds and shot 64.3% (9-of-14) from the field and 80% (4-of-5) from three. He was named Bluegrass Sports Commission Most Valuable Player for his performance. This is Maxey’s second SEC Freshman of the Week award. He also won it after scoring 26 points in Kentucky’s win over then-No. 1 Michigan State in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 5.
Let’s watch those highlights again.
UPDATE: This post wasn’t up even five minutes before Tyrese Maxey won another award. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster also named Maxey his National Player of the Week.
It is not a coincidence that, in the two biggest wins Kentucky has had this season, Tyrese Maxey was the star. On Saturday, in a 78-70 overtime win over then-No. 3 Louisville, Maxey went off for 27 points on 9-for-14 shooting while hitting 4-for-5 from three. This came after his 26 point outburst on the opening night of the season in a win over Michigan State.
And that right there is what makes the difference for the Wildcats. Nick Richards played the best game of his life Saturday. Ashton Hagans was as solid as always, even if his scoring wasn’t quite there. Immanuel Quickley stepped up and hit some big shots in big moments. But having a go-to guy, a bucket-getter that was create something out of nothing is absolutely enormous for a team that has so many question marks elsewhere on their roster.
For more of Dauster’s analysis, head on over to NBC Sports. He also broke down Maxey’s performance in video form on Instagram.